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An Interview with Wes "Bulldog" Humpston

Skater, surfer and creative artist.

October 31, 2009, Oceanside, California, USA
Questions and e-mail interview by Bob Green
Photos courtesy of Wes Humpston

1. When did you start riding bellyboards?
In the late 60's, my friend Kevin Kaiser started on a Stub Vector and I rode a Concave Vector about the same time way back in the late 60s and then started making wooden boards with handles and fins and would draw and spray paint them. We grew up in Santa Monica rode POP (Pacific Ocean Park) and all up the coast, looking for fast hollow waves.
 
We started making foam boards, did the art with spray paint, airbrush and sharpies. We kept the handles and went from 2 fins to 3 and 4 fins. Many times we did whatever was the newest design with surfboards like 3 fins or the double concave in the tail like the bonzer boards.

2. Were you and Kevin riding the vectors stand-up or prone? What inspired you to ride these boards prone?
Like bellyboards with both hands on the nose like this photo.
3. Had you ridden stand-up before getting into these boards? Were your boards shorter than regular stand-up boards?
Yeah, I had tried stand-up a few times, but after body surfing and riding surf mats in the summer and bellyboards just felt more natural I guess.
4. Why did you switch to wood? Where did the design inspiration come from?
It was cheap and easy. Also, there was another belly boarder, Harold Rothstein's older brother (Drubart aka Andy Rothstein), riding on big days at POP that ripped and was in the tube for days. He rode a wooden Pipo with no fins with a handle that was much flatter to the board. Harold told us to get marine plywood and we did then we could make what ever template/shape we wanted we put handles on the nose, two fins and painted and drew all over them when we had the time... This was all about early 1970. Then a few years later we started to use foam.

Wes on the wooden paipo, ca. early 1970s.
5. Why did you switch back to foam?
We made many wooden boards but they didn't float too well so we went to foam kneeboard blanks and wooden handles that were glassed on like fins.
6. Were there many other bellyboarders around at the time? If this a tight knit crew who knew each other well and surfed together what was the reaction of other surfers to so many bellyboarders? When you traveled did you see other bellyboarders?
Yeah, slowly people/friends started getting into it and there were 15 to maybe 20 guys into it and some made there own boards.
7. What attracted you to bellyboards? What was your approach to riding waves on a belly board? Was this similar to how other guys rode bellyboards?
I think cuz I could ride hollow waves, on hollow steep fast days. Kev and I would see surfers getting pitched on waves we were making. Also, you can ride so far back in the tube, we would be in a tube and have a guy drop in in front of us screaming about the tube, and we would just say, "Yeah, we were behind you! Hahahahaha!!!"
8. You mentioned you rode boards that reflected the latest stand-up developments. Any particular designs/fin configurations work well? Any that you found didn't work?
I don't know if you could say didn't work but the newer designs would work better.
9. If there was a particular board you preferred what would be the typical dimensions?
Always the newest because they had the newest modifications. My newest one Craig Hollingsworth made for me and it's 59 inches long and 22.5 inches wide, and that's in the hips. The board has three fins and a flat bottom going into a "V" tail and shallow concaves in the tail with thin hard rails.
10. How many boards do you think that you made all up? Who was buying the boards - locals, collectors, people from around the USA?
I never really kept track of how many  -- maybe 15 to 25 wooden boards and a few more of the foam. Kev and I would each make a board and try to out-do the other a little and then we would try the other's board when we got them into the water.
11. Who did what in the construction process?
We each did the whole board from the shaping, painting, glassing and making the fins and handles.
12. The boards I have seen were very distinctive with the wooden handles and artwork. Can you tell me about the artwork?
Like everything else about the boards it was always evolving. In the beginning we used whatever we could find, pens and pencils and what ever spray paint we could scrounge up. Then as we got older and got jobs we started hitting the art store and for colored pens/sharpies and airbrush paint. I would sketch on the foam then airbrush and finish with a black sharpie. In the late-60s and 70s there was so much cool art that influenced me growing up.

Examples of Art Work on the Paipos
(click on pics for larger images)

Bottom-3-L.jpg Bellyboard_Airbrush .jpg

13. Did Ho's surf shop play a role in the development of bellyboarding in the area?
Yeah, I worked there for a few months in 1970. I think I was 15 and saw Craig Stecyk spray boards a few times and that really got me thinking after seeing him working with stencils and seeing him doing layers of colors, fades and blends and just things I had never seen before because no one was doing it. It was kind of a free style spray can art on surfboards. Also, Skipper showed me how to use a sander and told me the sander was his tool and he could shape a surfboard with one! Also, I worked a summer with Kent Sherwood, Jay Adam's dad and we did a lot of fiberglass and resin work and resin poured into forms kind of stuff. It was trippy stuff and Kent gave me a Milwaukee Grinder, the first grinder I ever had.

Bellyboards in back at the Zephyr Shop, ca. 1970-72


14. Mid-80s is much longer to keep at belly boards. Any guys still riding the style of boards you were riding?
The first half of the 1980s was great. Took some killer trips to Mex with friends in 1983. I think there was one of the biggest storms to hit SoCal and my brother and I were on the Santa Monica pier watching giant waves slamming into it and then the end of the pier fell into the sea. That was rad! I really don't know if guys are still riding them up there. I moved to San Diego almost 20 years ago for a job with my family and kind of lost touch with all them guys. A few have died.
15. How did art, skating and surfing go together?
Well to me, I grew up body surfing and riding surf mats in the summers. Then, I met Kev and a few other guys -- Craig Hollingsworth, Chris Cahill -- and we got wetsuits and were in the water almost every day. We loved all the surf art, like Rick Griffin's, and rock art on posters and PL's Zap Comic art and we would put that on our Pipo boards then we all started skating in the mid-70s and it was just a natural thing to make out own skateboards. A lot of kids did it at that time cuz it was cheap. A new board was just another clean canvas to draw and paint on so it was all just kind of an evolution? The waves are best in the morning in SoCal so the day would start by hunting for waves and then turned into a skate session.

Kevin and Wes's Quivers
K_and_My_Quivers.jpg


K_and_My_Quiver_FanView.jpg

K_and_MEB_B_quiver.jpg



The New Boards (ca. 2009)

New-5-s.jpg




Wes Humpston in Kevin's Garage



Other Information:
Wes Humpston's site, http://www.bulldogskates.com/.


Feel free to send me suggestions, comments and additional information to: The Paipo Interviews.


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Last updated on: 11/08/09